The province is dividing $4 million among 24 newcomer service groups including the Portage Learning and Literacy Centre. The announcement was made Monday, and Portage Learning and Literacy Centre executive director Cathy Dowd says it comes at a great time when they're seeing twice as many arrivals to the city.
"We've been funded for the past few years to provide settlement services for all newcomers to Canada," says Dowd. "That would include anyone that's a newcomer that's not a permanent resident. Before that, we've always been able to provide services for newcomers that were permanent residents, funded through IRCC (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada). With the provincial funding that we've had for the past few years, we've been able to serve all newcomers to Canada."
She notes this new funding will provide more money than they've ever before, which is exciting.
"We've been serving way more clients than we ever have before, just with the influence of arrivals coming from Ukraine and with the people coming here from other countries with the COVID restrictions lifting and borders opening," continues Dowd. "Our newcomer client numbers have increased by almost 100 per cent in many of the categories, so we're seeing huge numbers in intakes and number of appointments that we're serving clients with."
Dowd says the funding will allow them to hire more staff and provide more programming in the year to come. She notes this huge increase in funding is just since this time last year.
"Last year, we had a total of 750 clients served, who would be new and returning clients," adds Dowd. "And this year, we're at over 1,320 clients that we've served. That is through both IRCC and Manitoba Fund. Our biggest increase, actually, was within our Manitoba-eligible clients program. We went from serving just around 537 Manitoba legible clients this year, receiving at least one service through us. Many of them returned several times to receive services. The previous year, we were only at 98 clients. We have seen a significant increase in our provincial-funded services. And for IRCC, the increase has been around 75 per cent from last year to this year."
She explains 98 new people came to their program last year with 131 who returned, bring a total of 229. For this past year to the end of March, they served 537 Manitoba-eligible clients who either hold a temporary valid work permit, or are not naturalized Canadian citizens with a study permit, or they are on a visitor visa and includes their dependents.
"Also, if they're born in Canada but they consider themselves a newcomer, that would mean they were born here, but they grew up somewhere else, and then they came back to Canada. They need some services to adjust to living in Canada."
Dowd says they requested a substantial amount of funding compared to last year based on the numbers that they were seeing and expecting to see in the coming year.
"We currently are funded to have one full-time settlement worker and we're going to hire two more that will be in the office here to help clients. We'll have some more programming available covering some admin costs for, obviously, operating a program like this," says Dowd. "It's definitely busy over here and we're really appreciative of the province for coming up with this funding."
Dowd says one aspect of the funding that makes it even better is the multi-year factor. She notes they don't have to apply every year, adding this is going to be for the next three years.